Stimulus money comes locally for job creation

December 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Many are wondering what has happened to all the federal stimulus money, but ABC7 has found some of it has gone to job creation. Bay Area counties are racing to help both employers and people looking for work take advantage of some of that cash. The money is part of a jobs program that seems almost too good to be true.

Jairo Hernandez and Michelle Singletary work at Laundry Locker -- a dry cleaning and laundry business in San Francisco. Their employer is a private, for-profit business, but their salaries are paid by the federal government.

"I'm working every day for 40 hours a week. I get my paychecks on time. I'm able to support my daughter without no help, no problem," says Singletary.

Michelle had been a stylist for Levis, but she was laid off.

"It was very, very hard, I was out of work for like five months," says Singletary.

Then she found a San Francisco program called "Jobs Now" -- run by the city with help from Washington.

"Right now we have over 1,200 people placed in jobs. If they work through the end of September next year, that will pump over $30 million into the local economy," says Trent Rhorer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency.

It works like this: The federal stimulus bill set aside $5 billion to subsidize jobs for needy families. California gets $1.8 billion of that to dole out to counties which can use the money to get unemployed people into jobs.

San Francisco was one of the first to get the program off and running.

"We've been averaging about 100 job placements a week," says Rhorer.

The program is targeted at people who are either unemployed or part-time workers with a low income, and you must be a parent, with a child under 18 years old.

"I have four children, so it's definitely imperative that I have a job right now," says Tasha Spencer.

Spencer is a single mother now working as a public service aid for San Francisco's Human Services Department. Her salary is paid by the Jobs Now program.

"It's a lifesaver. I would not be working if I did not have this job," says Spencer.

The extra workers are a big help to local governments strapped for cash, but the place officials hope the program will grow most is in the private sector.

Arik Levy owns Laundry Locker and he just spent a lot of money on a new high tech building when the recession hit. He had to scale back the number of employees, but now he can add people because the government is paying their wages through next September.

"Now we've got these excess resources, we're bringing on more business and that's helping our bottom line right now, and will absolutely help us keep these employees on fulltime later," says Levy.

San Francisco is looking for more businesses who want to hire employees at government expense.

"Many of the employers who are participating have come back to us and said, you know without this program, I may have had to close," says Rhorer.

In addition to San Francisco, other Bay Area counties are also launching subsidized job programs. For example, Santa Clara has already put more than 500 people to work, Alameda County has placed about 50 in jobs and is launching a public outreach program to get more businesses involved. Santa Cruz has found jobs for 20 so far. Napa County has placed three. The San Mateo, Contra Costa, Sonoma, and Marin counties will have programs up and running in the next few weeks. Solano County, however, is still a few months away from starting up.

The job programs all have different names and slightly different rules. To find out what your county is doing you can click here or on the link above.

Also, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is lobbying Washington to expand program past next September and include unemployed people with no children.

This story was written and produced by Jennifer Olney.